China warned two US warship to turn away from a disputed island they were sailing near the island without permission.
The busy waterway in the South China Sea is the latest flashpoint as relations between the world’s biggest economies continue to strain.
China said on Monday that it has warned two US ships sailing near disputed islands in the South China Sea to leave the area.
The move comes amid heightened tension between Beijing and Washington over trade tariffs, sanctions and Taiwan.
US guided-missile destroyers Preble and Chung Hoon travelled within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs.
The reefs form part of the Spartly Islands, a region of the South China sea over which China claims sovereignty.
The foreign ministry said the US vessels entered the waters without Chinese permission.
Foreign ministry spokesman Greg Shuang told a press conference that China “is strongly dissatisfied and is resolutely opposed” to the US operation.
“The relevant moves by the US ships infringed upon Chinese sovereignty, and damaged the peace, security and good order of the relevant seas,” Geng said. “China urges the United States to stop such provocative actions.”
Geng added that China would continue to take the necessary steps to defend its sovereignty.
US Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Seventh Fleet, said that the “innocent passage” aimed “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law.”